"Deus Ex Machina"
What You Need To Know:
In APOCALYPTO, director Mel Gibson provides moviegoers with another fantastic setting to play out bloody acts of courage, fighting oppression and sacrifice. His directing is superb, and the cast, led by Rudy Youngblood as Jaguar Paw, is magnificent. The chase scenes after Jaguar Paw escapes, however, become one long, predictable montage of escapes. APOCALYPTO contains extremely strong, bloody violence, a few crude sex jokes, and brief foul language, including one "f" word. There is very little spiritual content to counter the vague paganism and ancestor worship of the heroic protagonist.
(PaPa, BB, FR, C, L, VVV, S, NN, M) Strong mixed pagan worldview with strong moral premise extolling human courage, freedom and family bonds in the face of extreme evil and violent oppression, plus references to paganism (including ancestor worship, polytheism, idolatry, and worship of sun god), and brief images of European Christians and their sailing ships and boats; five or six obscenities, including one "f" word, a "d" word, an "h" word, and crude references to pig testicles; extreme, bloody violence includes pig impaled, implied cutting out of hearts, priest holds up two human hearts, implied decapitations, decapitated heads roll down temple steps, decapitated body tumbles down temple steps, spurting blood shown in man's severe head wound, jaguar tears man's head with its teeth, man takes a bite of pig's testicles, man falls into black quicksand, woman has baby, men hit by spears and arrows, man stabbed in neck with point of spear, bloody neck wound shown, other stabbings, snake bites man's neck, men almost fall off cliff, murder, human sacrifice, extensive chase scenes through open field and jungle, etc.; a few crude sex jokes, including jokes about man's apparent inability to father children, references to alleged aphrodisiacs, and implied oral sex in scene meant as a joke; upper female nudity in natural setting, rear nudity of both sexes, and upper male nudity, but nothing really salacious or in an explicit sexual sense; no alcohol; no smoking; and, kidnapping and oppression rebuked, and woman appeals to female demi-god or ancestor that might be an implied reference to the Virgin Mary.
APOCALYPTO, Mel Gibson’s latest movie, has excellent production values, direction and acting, and is set in a unique world that is unlike anything you’ve probably ever seen. The movie is bogged down, however, by the kinds of very violent and bloody action melodrama that audiences have, in fact, actually seen before. A major problem with the action in the movie’s second half is that three important plot problems are solved by Deus Ex Machina. A Deus Ex Machina is a contrived, sudden solution to an apparently insoluble plot difficulty (e.g., a sudden flood from nowhere that kills the villain or a divine intervention that occurs unexpectedly without any reason).
APOCALYPTO means “new beginning.” It is set in the Mayan Civilization in Central America just before the Europeans arrive. It opens with some crude sexual jokes where a group of natives in a jungle village make fun of another native’s inability to produce children with his wife. They play practical jokes on the young man after they snag a wild pig.
Jaguar Paw, the son of the leading hunter, suddenly hears strangers approach. The strangers say their village has been ravaged and they are traveling further into the jungle to find “a new beginning.” Jaguar Paw ponders this strange encounter, but his father reminds him that fear will kill him if he lets it.
Soon, a band of Mayan raiders sacks Jaguar Paw’s village one morning. They kill many people, including Jaguar Paw’s father, and take many captives, including Jaguar Paw. Jaguar Paw manages to hide his pregnant wife and their son in the village well. One of the raiders, however, cuts the rope leading into the well. Thus, Jaguar Paw must find a way to escape and save his family before a heavy rain comes and drowns them.
Complicating matters is that the raiders plan on sacrificing all the men captives and sell the women into slavery. Only an act of God or Nature can save Jaguar Paw from this terrible fate.
In APOCALYPTO, director Mel Gibson provides moviegoers with another fantastic setting to play out bloody acts of courage and sacrifice. His directing is superb, and the cast, led by Rudy Youngblood as Jaguar Paw, is magnificent. Despite all that, the chase scenes after Jaguar Paw escapes become one long, somewhat predictable montage of bare escapes. This kind of thing was done better by Cornel Wilde in his 1966 masterpiece THE NAKED PREY.
APOCALYPTO also contains extremely strong, bloody violence, including a Mayan priest holding two bloody hearts plucked from people’s bodies before decapitating and rolling their heads down some temple steps. There is also brief foul language, including one “f” word.
Furthermore, Jaguar Paw and his tribe display a vague paganism of ancestor worship, in contrast to the evil idolatry, polytheism and human sacrifice of the cruel villains. At one point, a female native pleads to a female demi-god or ancestor of some kind, which probably symbolizes Mel Gibson’s Roman Catholic veneration of the Virgin Mary. At another point [possible SPOILER], a solar eclipse saves Jungle Paw’s life. One may interpret this natural phenomenon as an act of God, but the movie contains no direct spiritual references leading viewers to believe this. There are also very few, if any, monotheistic or Christian elements to counter the vague paganism and ancestor worship of the movie’s noble, heroic protagonist. The script’s three contrived Deus Ex Machinas seem to take one out of the mood of the movie’s intensely harrowing, action-filled second half.
Like BRAVEHEART and even THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, APOCALYPTO extols human courage, freedom and family bonds in the face of extreme evil. THE PASSION remains Mel Gibson’s masterpiece, however, for it alone shows how the grace and power of God, through Jesus Christ, overcomes the wicked oppression of sin. The sublime artistry of that movie’s opening reference to the Messianic prophecy of Gen. 3:15 (perhaps the most important prophecy in all of Holy Scripture), its final shot of divine strength and resurrection, its depiction of the Way to the Cross, and its powerful images of the sorrow of Mary, Jesus Christ’s mother, and God the Father at the death of Jesus, remains unmatched in modern cinema.